Monday, July 14, 2014

Design: The Horizontal Discipline

Design is a varied thing. Like most people in my role, I can be found doing any number of design-related activities on a given day. However, "design-related" can be be pretty ridiculous adjective. In my small startup alone, Designers are involved in product strategy, feature planning, user research, customer support, marketing, promotion, video production, graphic design, customer support, and prototyping. That short list alone hits on five or six major disciplines, from management to engineering to marketing and everything in between.

I don't code, personally, but many (most?) UX Designers do and can build their own solutions. I also know little about the technical side of graphic design and typography, which many Designers are highly skilled at. However, I have extensive experience and an academic background in Human Factors Engineering (Go Jumbos!) and System Design (go SDM!). Plus, I was an animator, can read a balance sheet, and know a few things about psychology.

Somehow this is all normal. What's the story here? Are we just using overly broad terms for a collection of specific jobs? Or, does the role of product design really require all these skills, and as a result, weave through every other discipline within an organization? I've come to accept and embrace the fact that this is the case - that design is a cross-disciplinary discipline by nature, specifically positioned to cross the seams of other roles and responsibilities. Does this make it less or more important than other disciplines within an organization, such as Engineering, Sales, or Marketing? Not at all - it's just different - a supporting bridge across a row of a pillars. A horizontal among verticals. Like I said, a varied thing. 

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